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Cowboy analytics roundup: Is Dallas the best team in the NFL?

The Cowboys are certainly performing like one of the very best right now.

Washington Football Team v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Any time that an NFL team drops a 50-burger on a division rival - let alone a team that won the division just a year ago - it’s perfectly normal to start wondering if there’s any team better than them. That’s the case for the Cowboys, whose 56-14 demolition of the Washington Football Team has them shooting up plenty of power rankings.

But it’s not just the subjective power rankings they’re rising on, as Dallas is seeing many of their analytics rankings go up as well. They’ve been steadily climbing in a number of categories already, but the Sunday Night Massacre has understandably moved the needle a bit more. Let’s take a look.

Cowboys Efficiency at a Glance

 DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Week Weighted DVOA Weighted DVOA Rank
 DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Week Weighted DVOA Weighted DVOA Rank
Offense 13.4% 6th 9th 11.3% 7th
Defense -15.2% 2nd 1st -19.1% 1st
Special Teams 2.2% 6th 5th 4.4% 5th
Overall 30.9% 1st 1st 34.8% 1st

How’s the view from the top, Cowboys fans? Dallas has now supplanted the Buccaneers as the number one team in total DVOA, placing the Cowboys as the league’s most efficient all-around team. They’re only ahead by a small margin, but hold a much larger lead in weighted DVOA, suggesting that, in recent weeks, the Cowboys have been head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL.

Part of what helped Dallas leap frog Tampa Bay is how complete the team is. They’re one of two teams to rank inside the top ten in DVOA on offense, defense, and special teams. They’ve held that claim for a few weeks now, but were joined this week by the Rams, who moved past the Cardinals in the NFC West race this weekend.

NFL team tiers, Weeks 1-16 courtesy of rbsdm.com

Speaking of the Cardinals, the Cowboys moved into a near-tie with their upcoming opponent in the EPA-based team tiers. Arizona is doing slightly better on offense while Dallas is doing slightly better on defense. This also moves the Cowboys into the top tier for the first time in a while, reflecting how well this team is playing right now.

Offense

Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

 Grade Rank
 Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA 13.4% 6th
Pass DVOA 31.7% 6th
Run DVOA -4.0% 13th

Rumors of the Cowboys offense’s demise were greatly exaggerated, as it turns out. It’s true that things were subpar for a few weeks, but after stealthily improved performances against Washington and the Giants on the road, Kellen Moore’s group came roaring back to life on Sunday.

They remain at eighth in the DVOA rankings, but saw their actual grade jump from 8.5% to 10.6%, a pretty considerable improvement. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, both looking healthier than they were even a week ago, played well and the receiving corps found a perfect rhythm with Dak Prescott now that they’re all playing together again. Speaking of Dak...

Dak Prescott’s Efficiency

 Grade Rank
 Grade Rank
QBR 54.9 9th
EPA 85.8 7th
CPOE 2.2 T-5th
DVOA 21.2% 3rd
DYAR 1379 3rd

Prescott played lights out on Sunday in front of a nationally televised audience, reminding everyone of how deadly he can be when locked in. For the first time in a while, Prescott was able to take shots down the field again, finishing with the most intended air yards this week and the fifth-most completed air yards.

On the season, Prescott saw his value-based metrics (DVOA and DYAR) and accuracy (CPOE) all increased by a meaningful margin, while he also posted gains in QBR and EPA. All in all, it was the exact type of game that Prescott - and the offense as a whole - needed to show the rest of the league.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

 Grade Rank
 Grade Rank
Adjusted Line Yards 4.80 2nd
RB Yards 4.68 5th
Adjusted Sack Rate 5.6% 9th
Pass Block Win Rate 58% 23rd
Run Block Win Rate 73% 6th

The offensive line was noticeably better last week with Connor Williams back in the starting lineup, and they arguably had their best performance of the last two months this week. The fact that it came without Tyron Smith is even more encouraging.

Smith also ranks seventh among all tackles in run block win rate even though he hasn’t played in the last two games. Center Tyler Biadasz is sixth among all centers in run block win rate, and popped off the screen Sunday with his hustle late in the game when things had already been decided for a while.

Defense

Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

 Grade Rank
 Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -15.2% 2nd
Pass Defense DVOA -20.5% 2nd
Run Defense DVOA -7.1% 16th
Pass Rush Win Rate 42% 12th
Run Stop Win Rate 31% 14th

As impressive as the Cowboys offense was on Sunday, the defense was equally great. Apart from two drives, they locked down the Football Team in every way imaginable. The second scoring drive came to fruition in large part because Dan Quinn pulled most of his starters by that point.

As a result, Dallas now sits alone at the top in defensive DVOA, mirroring their top-ranked pass defense. Everything seems to be clicking for this group, which is why it’s no surprise to see Quinn getting head coach interview requests alongside Kellen Moore.

Cowboys Pass Coverage

 Targets Completions Completion Rate Passer Rating Allowed ADOT When Targeted Air Yards Allowed Yards After Catch
 Targets Completions Completion Rate Passer Rating Allowed ADOT When Targeted Air Yards Allowed Yards After Catch
Trevon Diggs 103 54 52.4% 55.8 10.4 496 411
Anthony Brown 122 65 53.3% 78.4 12.2 518 318
Jourdan Lewis 76 52 68.4% 93.4 8.5 381 305
Kelvin Joseph 17 8 47.1% 82.7 6.8 14 75
Jayron Kearse 65 40 61.5% 77.5 6.8 179 237
Damontae Kazee 25 13 52.0% 85.8 14.2 135 70
Malik Hooker 28 16 57.1% 80.8 9.6 59 90
Donovan Wilson 14 6 42.9% 57.1 8.1 39 26
Keanu Neal 38 30 78.9% 97.1 3.8 109 169
Leighton Vander Esch 38 27 71.1% 87.9 1.8 37 226
Micah Parsons 36 22 61.1% 71.5 3.1 37 123

Let’s talk about Kelvin Joseph, since he made his first career start Sunday. Considering that Joseph found out he’d be doing so with only a few days to prepare, the rookie played out of his mind. Joseph was targeted five times in the game and yielded zero completions, resulting in a 39.6 passer rating allowed on an average depth of target of 6.2 yards. Jayron Kearse (three targets) was the only other Cowboy to not allow a completion in this one.

Joseph played on the outside, which meant Anthony Brown slid inside to the slot to replace Jourdan Lewis. Brown had another great game, which has prompted some to suggest Dallas keep Joseph outside and roll with Brown in the slot going forward. There’s nothing that either player has done to argue this is a bad idea, but Joseph’s sample size is very small, while Lewis has played elite football out of the slot this year:

Finally, a quick shoutout to Trevon Diggs. He tied Everson Walls’ franchise interception record, which is impressive, but he also recorded another game shutting down Terry McLaurin. For all of the “boom or bust” labels Diggs has been getting this year, he’s been dominant against one of the best young receivers in the game in two contests this year: